How do we make the UK the best connected country in the world?
This report by IoD’s Senior Infrastructure Adviser Dan Lewis aims to think big and breaks the question into two parts:
1. Priorities for the short to medium-term:
These include speeding up the rollout of fibre broadband, making more use of under-valued bus and coach travel, enabling universal 5G coverage, legalising Personal Light Electric Vehicles, rapid digitisation of rail signalling and optimising road investment through better data capture.
2. Ideas for long-term, transformational change:
Potential long-term projects such as Hyperloop for the Northern Powerhouse, revamping regional airports into hubs for autonomous air vehicles and the designation of as many as 3 UK spaceports should all be on the agenda.
No one really disputes that the status quo is not good enough. Congestion on our roads, which are often in poor-repair, is the worst in Western Europe. Mobile coverage is so patchy that phone users can’t make voice calls or send text messages on all four mobile networks in 30% of the UK’s landmass. Broadband speeds lag well behind many countries because the UK’s legacy copper-based network, in places over 100 years old, still dominates our communications network. Meanwhile, frustration about poor transport connectivity is adding to resentment about regional imbalances.
Today even where infrastructure is planned, the benefits are seemingly far-off and uncertain. High Speed 2 (HS2) will not be finished for over a decade, poses value-for-money questions, and in its first phase provides a better link between Birmingham and London, rather than between Northern and Midlands centres.
Transport for North’s Northern Powerhouse Rail project meanwhile, between Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle and Hull, is not expected to be fully completed until as late as 2050.
All of this would be challenging enough if the population were not expected to grow by another 7 million people by 2041.
With infrastructure, now is the time for Britain to be bold.
Read the full report here